Large-scale wind may wane in Oregon
By Erik Siemers
Oregon's era of wind farm construction may be coming to a close. (Photo courtesy of Portland General Electric.)
John Audley talks first about the positives, such as how wind energy developers have driven economic growth in rural Oregon like no industry since timber ruled the state.
“I don’t think there is an industry out there that has invested $5.5 billion in rural Oregon over the years like the wind guys,” said Audley, deputy director of the Portland-based advocacy group Renewable Northwest Project.
But that preface is followed by a stark and troublesome reality.
“Whether or not there will continue to be projects in Oregon,” Audley said, “is the thing we’re dealing with now.”
After a decade of unprecedented growth that left the vistas along the Columbia Gorge dotted with wind turbines, the wind energy industry is facing a series of challenges that could determine whether Oregon remains a vital market for large-scale wind projects.
The Business Energy Tax Credit, the state incentive program credited with fueling much of the growth, was disassembled last year and replaced with a new power-generation tax credit that excludes large wind energy projects.
At the federal level, a grant program for renewable energy products created by the 2008 federal stimulus bill and extended in 2010 expired at the end of the year with little hope of revival.
Meanwhile, the federal energy Production Tax Credit program, which provides a 2.1 cents per kilowatt-hour tax credit to owners of wind farms, is set to expire at the end of 2012. Unless it’s extended analysts fear the industry could begin to shrink.
Add to that the ongoing struggle with the federal Bonneville Power Administration over how to accommodate both wind and hydro energy on the power grid with the need for improved power transmission systems to move electricity from where its being generated to population centers, and the future of wind in Oregon grows even murkier.
@ErikSiemers | firstname.lastname@example.org | 503-219-3418
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